Friday, January 21, 2005

Best news in a LONG time: scientists identify cancer's "on-switch"!

Please. Let. This. Be. True.
Scientists identify a single 'master' gene that seems to turn on cancer-causing action of other errant genes

BY DELTHIA RICKS
STAFF WRITER

January 20, 2005

An international team of scientists believes it has found cancer's master switch with the discovery of a gene they dubbed "Pokemon."

Like the electronic game figures - tiny monsters with bad tempers - the cancer-triggering gene apparently instigates the misbehavior of other cancer-causing genes, leading to tumor formation.

In today's issue of the journal Nature, researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, in collaboration with teams in Japan and Britain, announce that the gene plays a key role in starting a malignancy. As a result, scientists now believe they have stumbled upon an important new target for an anti-cancer drug...

"This is the master switch that interacts with other genes... It acts differently than other oncogenes. Others regulate cell growth, but Pokemon impacts on critical properties of cancer cells."

Among those key properties, Pokemon enhances a cancer cell's ability to resist aging and death. This immortalizing factor essentially endows cancer cells with a Peter Pan-like quality that renders them robust indefinitely, the very trait that makes tumors difficult to treat...

Read the full story at Newsday.

If this is as big a breakthrough as I'm inclined to think it might be (always thought that it would come via researching telomeres... but hey who's complaining?!?), it's plausible that we might see most - and Lord willing, all - forms of cancer eliminated within the next decade. It's definitely within the realm of possibility now.

And who'da thunk that looking for Pokemon would actually have a real payoff? :-)

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